Thursday, 20 November 2008

TAKA Great Barrier Reef trip

Just returned from 5 day live-aboard trip to the Ribbon reefs and Osprey reef off north Queensland on TAKA.

This was my first venture into tropical and live-aboard diving in 10 yrs and 600 dives! In the past I have always preferred to spend money on scuba and camera gear.

Used the 15mm fisheye and 60mm macro. Started with 2 strobes then switched to 1 to make it a bit easier. Would have been better to have a serious photographer buddy.

Loved the diving, 27c and up to 40m vis in the water, mind-blowing marine life and very well run dive deck.
Wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

Things they could improve on the boat are:
Food - German chef 's last trip after only 3 weeks. Great breakfast and salads but the dinners were like poor quality pub food. Grey/bleeding meat and deep fried crumbed things.
Water urn and brewed coffee was left empty too often.
Noise level in the lounge between dives was annoying. Chef's cd player and lounge cd player competing!

However these are just minor things, the boat and crew were very good. 29 divers and about 8 crew.
The video pro Ben from Scubapix did a brilliant job of the DVD.

Photo set here and my video of onboard life here.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Back to diving at last

Got to go out to Popes Eye with Jan "Hydroids" Watson, Trev "The slug snapper" McMurrich and Bob "Nudibranch" Burn today.

Conditions were crap with lots of current, short slack and poor vis. It was a cool 14c above and below!
However there were lots of slugs to snap and nothing leaked so can't complain too much.
It was definitely a macro day so the 60mm got to come along for the dive.

Here's the collection from today.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

First sailing day

Finally got a chance to launch the cat.

I also bolted on my underwater video housing to record the event.

What fun it was, great to be sailing again after a few years out of the sport.

Here's a short onboard video

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Tyro catamaran repair

Still very little diving due to weather and family dramas.

In the mean time I have been restoring this 12ft catamaran, given to me by a mate to stop it rotting away in his yard.

After one month of gluing, painting and repairing it's now ready to hit the water again. Not too sure how strong the hulls are but we will see.

Progress photos here

Friday, 15 August 2008

HSP Atomic Warhead 4WD nitro buggy

Well, no diving for a couple of weeks due to weather and bronchitis but I did get time to whip up a webpage about the HSP Atomic Warhead nitro buggy.

My nephews bought it on eBay and uncle Andrew willingly became the chief mechanic.

I posted some videos on maintenance on You Tube and they have turned out to be the most popular by far. I get emails weekly asking for advice so this page is aimed at answering some of those regular queries.

It was a blast to play with, so fast and such great 4WD traction.

Atomic Warhead buggy webpage

Lots of buggy action videos on my YouTube site

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Drysuit has returned

All fixed now hopefully. Seatec were very apologetic, paid for postage and re-glued the wrist seal very quickly.

Now to test it out in the coldest water this year. 10c in my semidry was not fun last Thursday. Brrrr!

This is Jan measuring her beloved hydroids at Popes Eye.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Drysuit repairs

I'm really not happy about this.

The drysuit has just returned from Seatec in Sydney for replacement of neck and wrist seals and general checkup. It took 6 weeks to come back to me and this happened on the second dive.

The seam has just peeled open. No torn neoprene, just glue letting go.

I'm waiting for Seatec's reply.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Macro at Blairgowrie

Recent gale and even storm force winds have restricted diving and the water temperature is in free fall. Down to 11c now.

However calm conditions on Friday meant we could head over to Blairgowrie to look for nudibranchs and the soon-to-be-named hydroid.

I was armed with the 60mm macro and naturally found a good wide angle subject as soon as I flopped out of the boat. This small keeled octopus hung around for just long enough to get a few shots. Lighting was difficult due to poor vis, strong current and lack of contrast between octopus and sand.

Here are some more shots of hydroids and nudis.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Fibre Optic recording indicator

Here are the latest tweaks to the Stingray housing.

The previous magnet record switch was somewhat unreliable due to alignment and flexing issues. It was also very difficult to hear the camera beeps so I was never really sure whether it was recording.

Handles and a flexible loc-line strobe arm have been added.

The magnetic switch now works by pushing or repelling a "finger" through the housing-back and I have added a fibre optic "light pipe" so I can see when the red record indicator appears on the LCD screen. This fibre optic bundle comes from a $10 fibre optic lamp found at Toy Kingdom in Geelong West.

More photos here

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Magnetic record switch

Here's what I came up with to stop and start recording underwater. The magnets came from Jaycar, a magnetic handy strip for less than $15. This plastic hanging strip contains about 8 magnets encased in a long plastic strip which can be cut to length.

An external magnet attracts the internal magnet operating the right angled lever. More photos here.
Works like a charm, if everything lines up properly.

The camera beeps to let me know if it's starting or stopping record mode.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

UK light cannon 100 as video light

I adapted a stingray housing to fit my Canon MVX430 DV camera, which worked pretty well, but it really needed a video light.

These excellent HID dive torches are available for around $300 posted on ebay from lightcannontoys

Here is a 5 min video from Cottage Reef showing the Light Cannon in action.

I'm now working on a magnet switch to operate the record button while underwater. At the moment I have to start recording before the dive and just let it run for 1 hr. Makes editing a pain.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Photo book

After my sister Viv suggested we create photo books instead of buying presents for Christmas, what a brilliant idea, I started looking around at what was available.

Photo books are offered at most printing outlets now like Camera House, Office Works etc.

The business I decided to try was Snapfish
You go to the website, create an account and upload your images, then start laying out the book.

As a first trial I created a 10 page, that's 20 sides, A4 hardback book choosing a variety of image sizes and backgrounds.
The book arrived less than a week later and I was amazed at the printing quality. The images looked just like they did on my iMac screen and were printed using proper publishing quality offset printing. Just beautiful!

The book cost $39.95 with about $5 post. If you order more than one at a time the subsequent copies are 20% off.
I'm now trying a 20"x16" poster print to check their normal printing this space.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

+4 dioptre investigation

Flickr contact Rikke Lind commented that it would be interesting to see a comparison of DOF, zoom level etc. with and without the +4 dioptre and I had to agree. I have always wondered whether dioptres actually magnify or just allow closer focus, so here's a series of images showing what happens.

The tests show that adding a +4 dioptre.......

Set focus of 1m reduces to 38cm and Infinity changes to 39cm.
Closest focus of 24cm reduces to 22cm, giving 1.44x mag.
So the focus range Infinity - 24cm changes to 39 - 22cm. Interesting, I thought the closest focus would be a lot closer not just by 2cm.

If the camera stays in one spot, the +4 gives a little bit of magnification, resulting in slightly reduced depth of field,
But if the camera is moved back to keep the image size constant then the depth of field is not reduced.
Note: Depth of field only depends on image magnification, (and aperture and sensor size) not which lens you use.

At 18mm zoom, aperture 3.5, the +4 changes barrel distortion into pincushion distortion and reduces corner blur and vignetting! Didn't expect that.

The reason we use dioptres underwater is mainly to enable your lens to focus on the virtual image created by the dome port, many lenses cant focus close enough on their own.
Or, as with my 18-55mm, to bring the closest focus to about 10cm from the dome for our rich but murky sub-temperate water.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

18-55mm with +4 dioptre

I bought a Hoya +4 dioptre 52mm to try with the kit lens and the results are excellent. I can now focus 10cm from the dome. Perfect for our murky sub-temperate water.

Behind the 6" dome this lens gives reasonable macro magnification with useful wide as well.

Of course it's not as pin sharp or as fast focusing as the 60mm macro or Sigma 15mm Fisheye but it's definitely a useful middle range zoom lens.

It means I wont need to buy a Sigma 17-70 and 8" dome to fill the gap.

On this dive I photographed nudibranchs and sharks, however the nudis were big and the sharks small!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Cuttle colours 18-55mm

These shots were taken at The Springs near Pt Lonsdale. Vis was only 3m with heaps of sand stirred up by the strong current and swell. I was surprised at how little backscatter showed up with the strobes out wide and balanced background exposure.

This is the same giant cuttle over a fun 15 min interaction. Wonderful inquisitive critters.

I used the 18-55mm kit lens with a +2 dioptre behind a 6" dome. Will try a +4 dioptre for closer macro as soon as the wind subsides.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Fix LED mini focusing light problems

Reports are surfacing on Wetpixel about unexplained floods of this little focus light and I have to agree.
Mine partially flooded but was rescued by spraying the electronics with WD40 but 2 mates have not been so lucky.
Theirs have been ruined with no replacement being offered by the supplier.

So I now wouldn't reccommend buying one. Unfortunately there does not seem to be an alternative focus light available for the same price with the light quenching feature.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Strobe arm floats

The housing and strobes are still quite heavy underwater especially with one strobe positioned for rim or back lighting.

To add a little buoyancy I cut 80mm sections off a pool noodle ($3.99 from Rebel Sports) and slipped them over the strobe arms. This made the rig much easier to handle underwater. The foam does compress a bit with depth but works beautifully for shallow dives. Could be improved with even longer foam sections.

This photo also shows the white velcro strips used to hold the sync cords to the strobe arms and the green lanyard and clip for hanging the rig from my shoulder d-ring.

The flags in the map behind mark Portsea Hole, Portsea Pier and Blairgowrie Marina.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Inon repair

The strobe has returned all fixed, no charge.
Yay Sea Optics, my new best friends.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Inon sync socket replacement

In a previous post I mentioned that one of my Inons needed a replacement sync socket.

The problem probably originated 4 yrs ago when I bought one of the first Ikelite to Inon sync cords. The finish on the Inon end of the cord was awful with razor sharp edges and vice crimp marks. I brought this to Ike's attention and they replaced it no questions.

However the damage had already been done. The few times I used the original cord had scratched the o-ring sealing surface of the Inon. I smoothed and polished the scratches fairly well but I guess over the years enough salt water seeped through to cause corrosion of the contact pins.

This came to a head in Tassie when I didn't undo the sync cord for maybe 36 hrs and the photo shows the result.

Anyway I sent it off to Sea Optics for a replacement. Total cost was $330 including $135 for the socket, $127 labour plus o-ring kit and pressure test. Way more than I expected but this ain't a cheap hobby! Strangely the socket was installed 180 degress rotated to where it was, meaning the brass locating pin was at the bottom.

It worked well for the 10 or so dives since but then the socket started to rotate when screwing and unscrewing the black plastic locking collar on the sync cord. Apparently the socket must have sustained a knock or I have tightened it up too much (neither of which I am aware of) wrenching the locking pin out of it's hole behind the socket.

The strobe is now holidaying again in Adelaide and I shudder to think what the bill will be.

So that's why I haven't posted many images lately.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Housing handle knob

When you put the housing down it balances precariously on the knob at the bottom of each handle.

I guess these knobs are for attaching accessories to the tray. The handles are secured by a thin nut not the knobs, so I removed them and now the housing sits on the tray base and is much more stable.
The blue covering is heat shrink tube just to cover the sharp thread. One day I may add a second nut just for peace of mind.

I also fixed the slipping control wheel problem.
I pulled off the slipping rubber ring then stuck it back on using thick, strong, foam backed double sided tape. This means the rubber ring now pushes harder on the camera control wheel.

Friday, 11 January 2008

D80 sunburst

Digital cameras generally don't capture sunbursts as well as film cameras. With just a little overexposure you end up with a big ugly cyan blob around the sun.

To get this image I had to reduce exposure as far as possible.

iso 100
Sigma 15mm at 5m depth
Mid morning sun in about 5m horizontal vis.

Brain issue of the day: Just realized that because I wasn't using flash I could have used a shorter shutter speed. Fool!

Housing issue: The dial that operates the front control wheel has started sliding across the wheel rather than turning it. Will have to give the rubber ring more grip somehow.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

New year, great vis

Well it's 2008 and so far the diving has been excellent. Vis has been better than average everywhere so I've been giving the Sigma 15mm quite a go.

I've also changed the colour mode from Vivid to Custom (sRGB 3a and normal saturation). Looking back at some of my earlier shots I realized that they looked a little too saturated, now they are looking more natural.

Popes Eye photos